Posts Tagged odontology

Creating a World Without Torture: January in review

This month has seen us fighting torture in the dental chair, calling for prompt investigations of torture in Ukraine, and welcoming a new member centre to the IRCT.

Below are a selection of the most popular stories from World Without Torture over the past month. Simply click the pictures and links to read the relevant piece.

Dental x-ray (courtesy of

Dental x-ray (courtesy of

Odontology and documenting torture

The most popular post this month focused on the increasingly sophisticated methods of torture exercised today, notably those which aim to go undetected by torturing the teeth of a victim.

But for the past 20 years, odontologists at the University of Copenhagen have been documenting the cases of torture they have seen so there is a better understanding of the increasing number of torture methods which aim to be impossible to identify.

A scene from The Act of Killing

A scene from The Act of Killing

Torture – coming to a cinema near you

With documentary The Act of Killing receiving an Oscar nomination – and fellow torture network Freedom From Torture discussing latest torture-themed film The Railway Man in the Guardian newspaper – we looked at just how realistic torture is being portrayed by the film industry today.

Scene from the protests in Kiev

Scene from the protests in Kiev

IRCT calls for investigations into reports of torture in Ukraine

As the anti-government protests in Ukraine continue, so do reports of state torture against protestors in the capital of Kiev.

With the help of a local newspaper in Kiev, the IRCT issued a statement calling for thorough and proper investigations into the torture claims. The IRCT continues to monitor the situation as it develops.

Calls to protect IRCT members in Bolivia and Mexico

ITEI centre in Bolivia

ITEI centre in Bolivia

Further calls of safety and investigation came from the IRCT this month to ensure the safety of staff across two centres in Bolivia and Mexico.

The Institute for Research and Therapy of Torture Sequels and State Violence (ITEI) in Bolivia reported a series of intimidating phone calls and death threats which have been present for almost three months now, and are calling on state officials to assue the necessary safety of human rights defenders at the centre – particularly in light of the robbery of the centre director (read more here).

In a similar vein, there have been concerns from IRCT member Colectivo contra la Tortura y la Impunidad (CCTI) that their staff are being defamed and targeted by the state. The IRCT called for the safety of the centre and for the necessary prosecution of those responsible for the alleged intimidation.

A picture of Damchoe's story in the magazine

A picture of Damchoe’s story in the magazine

Working alongside the media to end torture

Another extremely popular blog this month came as an accompaniment to the publication of the stories of two torture survivors in Al Jazeera English (iPad edition). The stories of Damchoe and ‘AK’ – from Tibet and Armenia, respectively – explore two entirely different reasons for torture in two contrasting locations, but both stories follow their incredible path to recovery even in the face of extreme adversity.

Thanks once more to Al Jazeera English for working with us. If you have an iPad, you can download the magazine by clicking this link.

Helping Syrian refugees in Jordan

The conflict in Syria has created a huge refugee crisis, with almost 2.5 million refugees pouring into neighbouring countries. Jordan has accepted the bulk of the refugees – over 800,000 of them – and IRCT member Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) has been documenting the healing processes of these refugees from their branch inside Jordan.

Click this link to view the entire album on the CVT Facebook page.

However there have been some positive developments over the refugee crisis, notably the UK’s decision to accept Syrian refugees as soon as possible.

The logo for the new centre

The logo for the new centre

New IRCT member welcomed

The IRCT welcomed new member the Kirkuk Centre for Torture Victimsbased in northern Iraq. It is the second IRCT member in the country and will provide treatment to all victims of torture, particularly important with the influx of Syrian refugees to the region.

The centre has already helped around 2,000 victims of torture, over half of whom are women and children.

Also this month

We heard from IRCT Regional Coordinator for Europe, Mushegh Yekmalyan, about his recent trip Montenegro to report on the progress human rights defenders are making surrounding torture prevention in the Western Balkans.

Australia’s tough stance on migrants arriving by boat was featured once more, particularly as the policy as been hailed as a victory – all the while ignoring the human rights of the people the policy punishes.


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Fighting torture and impunity on the dental chair

Dental x-ray (courtesy of

Dental x-ray (courtesy of

Increasingly sophisticated methods and unusual practices join the fight against torture and impunity

Plainly speaking, odontologists investigate teeth. They are dentists who specialised in forensic dentistry, putting their expertise at the use of legal enforcement, and, in some cases, in the fight against torture and impunity.

Using x-rays, these special dentists document cases where perpetrators inflict direct damage to the teeth through punches or kicks, extract teeth with pliers or ground them with a file as a form of torture.

For nearly 20 years, odontologists at the University of Copenhagen have been called to action when an alleged torture victim reported that teeth were involved in the torture.

In a study of 33 cases of alleged torture recently published in TORTURE Journal, the odontologists were able to tell that, in all cases, the evidence found was to varying degrees consistent with the alleged claims of torture.

These odontological reports never standalone but are integrated into a full forensic report. When deemed necessary, other examinations are requested as well. These may include dermatologists, urologists, rheumatologists, physiotherapists, ophthalmologists, radiologists, neurologists, etc.

A thorough examination by an experienced psychiatrist acquainted with torture will often be able to diagnose psychological scars even long after the torture has taken place. However, such claims are not easy to discover.

As described by the authors of the odontological study mentioned:

“An oral cavity free of major pathological conditions other than what is reported to be due to torture assaults is easier to evaluate than an oral cavity with signs of severe periodontal and/or cariogenic lesions. It is however crucial to remember that an oral cavity with pathological conditions does not exclude that torture has taken place, but it does make it more difficult to objectively make a judgment as to the origin of the injuries.”

In addition, torture methods are typically selected for maximum psychological and physical impact without leaving marks, and the authorities often detain victims until the majority of the injuries have healed.

Other less obvious challenges pertain to common methods and tools of a dentist. For instance, victims who have been subjected to “submarino” – a method of torture whereby the victim’s head is held under water to just before the point of drowning – may react strongly to the water used in the oral cavity during dental treatment.

Documenting to fight impunity

One of the obstacles in the struggle against torture is insufficient evidence in cases against alleged perpetrators. Most cases do not lead to justice for the torture survivor because the scars on his/her body and mind have not been appropriately documented by doctors or used by lawyers in legal proceedings. Effective investigation and documentation of alleged torture is decisive in proving that torture has taken place, bringing perpetrators to court and ensuring reparation and redress for survivors and their families. Official recognition that torture has taken place serves to restore individual lives and public morale and sends a strong signal to torturers and those authorising the use of torture that this is never acceptable.

Join us in recognising all the medical doctors who everyday join the ranks of torture fighters and help prevent torture worldwide.

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